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What is Whole House Audio?

Matthew Lindley
Matthew Lindley

Whole house audio, also known as distributed audio, is a system which allows people to play music throughout their home. Alternatively, the term can be applied to audio systems that are installed throughout a building. Whole house audio systems come in one of three main categories: single source, single zone; single source, multiple zone and multiple source, multiple zone.

Single source, single zone systems distribute the same audio source everywhere, meaning that every room linked to the audio source will receive the same music or sound. This is the most simple of the three types of systems because all that is required is one amplifier, an audio source and as many outlet speakers as desired. Single source, single zone systems are seen most often in areas such as retail stores and churches where it would be necessary to broadcast the same audio through large open areas.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

A single source, multiple zone system is very similar to the single source, single zone style, with the main exception being that volume controls are installed in each room that is linked to the main audio source. This system affords more control from one room to the next. However, like the first type of system, all involved rooms must listen to the same audio source.

The final type of whole house audio system, the multiple source, multiple zone system, is not only the most advanced and flexible, but also the most expensive. Different zones can select and often control different audio sources independently of other rooms in the system. Unlike the two single source styles, each audio source, and often every speaker in that the zone, requires its own independent audio amplifier.

Virtually any kind of speaker can be used for a whole house audio system. Systems used in homes or other residences usually use “hidden” in-ceiling or in-wall speakers, or even small satellite speakers in some instances. Larger venues will obviously use larger speakers.

It should be noted the Whole House Audio systems can also be effectively used in outdoor settings. Outdoor Whole House Audio systems will often employ speakers camouflaged as rocks or hidden by landscaping. These “hidden” speakers are designed to keep the effectiveness of the Whole House Audio system, while not compromising the overall aesthetic of the setting.

There are a number of commercial Whole House Audio systems that can be purchased and installed, however, some systems have been known to be custom built or homemade.

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